FromSoftware is a big name among gamers, thanks to its Dark Souls franchise. Its latest project, Elden Ring, is just around the corner and fans couldn’t be more ecstatic about it.
Taking place in the Lands Between, players take on the role of one of the Tarnished, an exiled group that has been recalled to save the world from peril. The Elden Ring itself acts as both a weapon and “overseer” of the world and its denizens - but now has been fragmented into Great Runes after an event called The Shattering.
These Runes have been usurped by the tainted, warring demigods of the ruling Queen Marika. The Tarnished must journey to this mysterious land, overcome its challenges and restore the Elden Ring.
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Initial gameplay impressions might suggest that it’s basically “an open-world Dark Souls 3” - but in reality, it is that and more. Long-time Soulsborne fans know exactly what to expect from Elden Ring, but for the newcomers out there, here's five exciting changes that improve upon the traditional Souls formula.
Embracing the Elden Ring’s five graceful improvements over its predecessors
1) Explore like never before
FromSoftware’s very first take on the open-word formula really sets it apart from its other linear offerings, even though it’s a combination of Souls and Sekiro gameplay-wise. The map of the Lands Between will feature six areas (each ruled by a demigod) interconnected by a central hub. All of them are fully explorable and have day/night cycles.
In fact, it is reminiscent of Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Elden Ring does not hold the player’s hand. Once players set foot in open areas, they are free to go wherever they want and tackle objectives as they wish.
The Elden Ring Steam is available here.
Points of interest - from mini-dungeons and NPCs to optional bosses and unmarked quests - will be peppered around the map, waiting for the players to discover.
Speaking of the map, players will need to chart out locations on it by acquiring “map fragments” that automatically fill-in specific portions of the map. Additionally, players will eventually get a steed to help them travel across distances, as well as a fast travel function via Sites of Grace (rebranded Bonfires from the Souls games). Completionists will certainly have their hands full with this one.
2) Sense of verticality
While open-world games often focus on scale and scope, they often fail to account for verticality - and a FromSoftware game isn’t really what would come to mind when one thinks of that term. The inclusion of a jump button should enhance not just exploration, but gameplay as well. The developers have already tried their hand at it in Sekiro, and Elden Ring is set to evolve that concept even further.
The landscape is rich with cliffs and peaks to explore, and paired with the steed’s double jump, players can reach places that are not accessible on foot. Combat is also diversified since players have extra space to ambush unsuspecting foes from. Overall, a great change of pace from Souls’ tight corridors and hallways.
3) Stealthy knights and mages
Another Sekiro-inspired mechanic here is stealth. Hiding in tall grass will camouflage the Tarnished from hostile eyes. It's definitely odd to see an ironclad warrior waddle around in a crouched position, but it’s now a viable playstyle. Players can even craft sleep arrows to knock out unaware enemies.
If players wish, they can just avoid enemies altogether too. See a massive monstrosity waiting in ambush? Skirt around its cone of vision. On that note, stealth is more effective at night-time.
One of the highlights of this game is the summon system. No, not the co-op - but rather a single-player mechanic. Players can obtain an item called Spirit-Caller’s Ash which will allow them to trigger Spirit Ashes to summon spectral versions of the respective ash. Wolves and skeletal warriors are examples of the types that can be summoned.
Players should note that spectral versions can only be summoned in specific areas and cannot be used in co-op at all. But for players struggling to fight a boss solo, this just might be what’s needed to help them tip the tide of battle in their favor.
Check out the Finger Maiden Elden Ring here.
5) Accessibility is the name of the game
Everything so far boils down to freedom of gameplay. But one element that really drives the point home is accessibility - and Elden Ring takes it seriously. The summoning and stealth mechanics are handy, and so is magic, which is said to be pretty good, at least in the network test.
Even in combat, players have tons of choice from swappable weapon attributes, arts and skills to just not being forced to go down a path they don’t want to. Or at least offering ways to make that journey more fun, if not easy.
The key point is, those who have always been intimidated by the brutal difficulty curve that FromSoftware games offer, may just find something appealing in this one, thanks to numerous gameplay and QOL improvements.
Elden Ring combines all of FromSoftware’s past fantasy experiences into one ambitious package, and frankly, it seems to be headed down the right track. Players should grab it when it launches on February 25, 2022 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles.